To make your brakes work to their optimum, there are 3 bike brake adjustment. Learn everything you need to know about bike brake adjustment with the team at Cycle Maintenance Academy.
Pad position– To achieve the maximum braking power the whole surface of the pad should hit the rim.
Too high, and it may rub on the tyre causing premature wear.
Too low, and not all of the pad will touch the braking surface, wearing unevenly and causing the brake to catch the underside of the rim.
Caliper position- The correct position for the brake arms is where the rim is equidistant between both pads. This means that when the brake is applied the pads hit the rim at the same time.
Sometimes the position of the brake arms change creating an uneven gap eventually causing one of the pads to rub on the rim and slowing the wheel.
To solve this there are balance screws that can be set to re-centralise the brake. On “V” brakes there are balance screws on each arm.
By turning the screw on one arm clockwise pressure is increased on that spring and will move both pads towards the side you are adjusting.
Turning anti-clockwise will reduce the pressure on that spring and will move both pads away from the side you are adjusting.
On some calliper brakes the balance screw is on top of the brake.
By turning the screw clockwise the brake moves towards the side with the screw.
Turning anti-clockwise moves the calliper towards the other side.
Cable tension– The correct cable tension means that when the brake lever is applied there is enough tension to press the pads onto the rim and stop the wheel.
If there is too little tension then when the lever is pressed it will stop when it reaches the handlebars (barring) but the brake won’t fully engage. To adjust the tension there is a barrel adjuster. To bring the pads closer to the rim, turn the barrel adjuster anti-clockwise
and to move them away from the rim, turn it clockwise.
With “V” brakes the barrel adjuster is on the brake lever and on calliper brakes it is on the calliper.
- Cross head screwdriver- Used for some balance screws.
- Set of allen keys- Used for some balance screws and to release the cable.
- 8/10mm spanner- They are used for releasing and tightening the cable at the caliper.
- Cable cutters- They differ from pliers and snips as the blades cross over each other.
- Pliers- Can be useful for gripping the cable and fitting a cable end.
- Before you start, check that your wheel sits in properly
and that it doesn’t move sideways.
Watch this videos on how to tighten loose bicycle wheel if you need help with repositioning and tightening the wheel.
- Make sure that the rim doesn’t have any major buckles. We have a great video here if you need to true your wheel before you can adjust your brakes
- Release the cable at the pinch bolt.
- Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise all the way in.
- Check the rubber boot. If it’s damaged or it becomes hard then remove or replace it.
- Check the pads for wear. If they are worn unevenly or beyond the wear line, then replace them.
Watch this video if you don’t know how to do this.
- Now check the cable for corrosion and fraying.
Replace if necessary. Our video here will guide you through this process.
- Check that the callipers are springing freely.
If they aren’t you may need to replace them. We have a video here to help you with this task.
- First check that the pads are correctly aligned. They should be positioned so that the pad sits squarely on the rim with about half a millimetre of rim showing at the top.
- If they don’t then reposition the pad, press both arms against the rim with one hand.
- With the other hand undo the bolt.
- Hold the pad and release the tension on the brake arms just enough to allow you to position the pad correctly.
- Once you’re happy with the position of the pad, using an allen key start turning the bolt until it resists.
- Still holding the brake arm, put the allen key in an upright position.
- Put your index finger against the bottom of the pad at the front and use your thumb to turn the allen key. Do this in small increments repeating the process until you can’t tighten it any more.
- Release the brake arm, grasp the pad with one hand and do a final tighten.
- Check the other side and repeat the process if necessary.
- Stand so the front of the brake is towards you and attach the noodle to the brake bridge.
- Use your left hand to push the right hand side brake arm all the way to the rim.
- Now with your right hand push the left hand side brake arm towards the rim.
- While still pushing the right arm, using the thumb of your left hand squeeze and hold both of them together.
- Now your right hand is free and you can use this to put the cable under the pinch bolt.
- Gently release the arms about 6mm and tighten the pinch bolt.
- Check if you can release the brake. If the noodle doesn’t slide out of the bridge then release the cable another few millimetres, check again and adjust until it’s correct.
- Now press the brake lever. If it touches the bars then the cable is too loose. Pull the cable through another few millimetres and check again.
- Repeat the process until the lever stops about half way when it is pressed.
- Check that the brake arms are moving equally. If they are not, find the arm that moves the furthest from the rim and turn the balance screw on that arm anti-clockwise half a turn.
- Apply the brake and see if this has improved. If the arms are still moving unevenly, turn the balance screw on the opposite side half a turn clockwise.
- Pull the lever and check again. If the pads still aren’t sitting evenly repeat the process on both sides until they are balanced.
- If you have fitted a new cable now it’s time to cut it. Leave about 4 cm from the pinch bolt.
- Fit the cable end and compress it with pliers using the crimping side or the nose.
- Bend the cable and hook it behind the brake arm.
Adjusting dual pivot road calliper cable.
- Stand so the front of the brake is towards you and grasping the pads from underneath with your right hand, squeeze them onto the rim.
- While still compressing the pads check if the quick release lever on the caliper is in the CLOSED position.
- Pull the brake cable firmly with your left hand, making sure that the brake quick release mechanism is closed
- Let go of the cable and use the appropriate tool, tighten the pinch bolt.
- Let go of the caliper. You will notice that the pads have moved slightly away from the rim.
Adjusting dual pivot road calliper pads.
- Squeeze the appropriate brake lever and check that the pads are correctly aligned.
- If they are not then to reposition the pad, while squeezing the lever, loosen the nut or bolt on the pad.
- While holding the pad, release the lever slightly, just enough to be able to move the pad around.
- Position the pad so that it sits squarely on the rim with about half a millimetre of rim showing at the top.
- Squeeze the brake so that the pad can’t move.
- Using the appropriate tool start turning the bolt clockwise until it resists.
- Still holding the brake lever, put the allen key in an upright position.
- Put your index finger against the bottom of the pad at the front and use your thumb to turn the allen key clockwise. Do this in small increments repeating the process until you can’t tighten it any more.
- Release the brake lever, grasp the pad with one hand and do a final tighten.
- Check the pad on the other side and repeat the process if required.
Now check the cable tension. Press the brake lever. If it touches the bars then the cable is too loose. Repeat the cable tightening process if necessary.
- Check if the pads are hitting the rim at the same time.
- If the pad on the pinch bolt side is further away from the rim then carefully turn the balance screw clockwise until the pads sit evenly.
- If the pad on the pinch bolt side is closer to the rim then carefully turn the balance screw anticlockwise until the pads sit evenly.
- If the balance is too far out, release the bolt at the back of the caliper.
- Reposition the caliper with one hand so that the pads are sitting evenly
- Keeping hold of the caliper, tighten the bolt at the back.
If you have fitted a new cable now it’s time to cut it.
The end of the cable should be at the bottom of the brake arm. Fit the cable end and compress it with pliers using the crimping side or the nose.
Bike brake adjustment
Discover our video on bike brake adjustment:
–Cross head screwdriver
–Set of Allen keys